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Atomic Energy as a Force for Good (Part I)

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Atomic Energy as a Force for Good (Part I)

Published 1955

Drama showing the reactions of citizens of a small town to the construction of a nuclear energy plant in their community, and their acceptance of the peaceful aspects of atomic energy.

Run time 13:09
Producer Christophers, The
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W


Describes the reactions of citizens of a small town to the construction of an atomic energy plant in their community. Explains that an understanding by the citizenry of the peaceful applications of atomic energy influences their attitude.
Ken Smith sez: This slow-moving melodrama stars former Hollywood heartthrob (and convicted murderer) Paul Kelly as "John Vernon," a desert ranch owner. The AEC wants to build a "fissionable material" plant on Kelly's land, but pacifist Paul tells them to go jump in some cooling water. That is, until smooth-talking Congressman Maynard comes to town. He tells Paul that fissionable material can be used for a lot of good things -- such as a medical tracer that can determine the exact location of Paul's granddaughter's BRAIN TUMOR. Whoa, let me reconsider, says Paul.
"God made the atom," summarizes one of Paul's crusty neighbors. "And God never made anything of itself that was evil." Paul Kelly died shortly after shooting was completed. This film was the follow-up to ATOMIC ENERGY CAN BE A BLESSING, which starred Fred MacMurray.



Reviewer: donwert - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 5, 2010
Subject: The BOMB!
Extremely well-acted piece about a small town in which the Atomic Energy Commission proposes to build an atomic power plant. You will recognize almost all the actors---character actors from numerous 1950s TV shows. The townspeople are mostly opposed to the plant, apparently because they confuse nuclear power with the atomic bomb.
As Part I ends, they decide to protest to the AEC. I suspect many people in the '50s were similarly confused. This film was evidently designed to allay such fears.
Reviewer: SirJekyllAppliance - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 22, 2007
Subject: Why the bomb?
The debate goes on to this day although changing in emphasis to the issue of spent fuel. Seemingly people were allowed to imagine that the fuel would last forever or be 'burnt up' in the reactive processes.

I don't get the A-Bomb test scenario at the start at all... Surely it never was common practice to ground test in the vicinity of a proposed facility? Disregarding any health & safety it wouldn't take a genius to spot it as negative PR!
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavorite - May 10, 2005
Subject: Atomic A-Ok
Suprisingly good acting centerpieces this otherwise pedestrian production about a town's decision to build a nuclear power plant in their town. Somewhat cheap plot device with the granddaughter and her dying of cancer (she even has a pony!) but all in all, quite enjoyable.
Reviewer: tambora - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 21, 2004
Subject: A response
Perhaps it was different in 1955, but I don't believe that there are any reasonable arguments that can be made against the safety and importance of nuclear power, even when it's in your backyard.

The effective dose of radiation one gets from living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant is about the same as the dose one gets from the harmless amount of Americium in one's smoke detector. Power plants are so well-shielded that there is no real danger, and because the U.S. runs nuclear reactors on a negative temperature coefficient (opposite that of Chernobyl), any problems are self correcting, and ridiculously redundant automatic systems are in place to scram [shut down] the reactor within milliseconds of a perceived problem.

The sun emits radiation, and we receive some of it on earth. We receive much more, in fact, than that from a nuclear power plant. Increasing the altitude at which we live increases the dose of radiation we receive from the sun, since there is less of the atmosphere to attenuate it. Living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant is equivalent to living 16 inches higher above sea level. In fact, you get more radiation from the ashy emissions from coal fire power plants than you do from nuclear reactors, and that's because of the trace amounts of radioactive Thorium and other elements contained within the coal smoke.

As far as the film is concerned, it is well-made and socially significant. Christine's comments on the filmmaking are all accurate (as usual), but her concerns about the goods and bads of nuclear power are overblown, at least in 2004.

Nuclear materials are not harmless, but they are safe when handled as safely as they are in all 103 commercial nuclear power plants in the United States. I can't stick my hand in a coal fire without getting it burned, but I don't fear coal fire. And, as a bonus, the only carbon dioxide emitted from nuclear power plants comes from the workers exhaling.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 25, 2003
Subject: Atomic Energy as a Force for Good (Full Film)
Rancher John Vernon is approached by a representative of the Atomic Energy Commission who wants to buy options on his land for building a nuclear power plant. Vernon is against having anything to do with "the bomb" and he gets the town to pass a resolution petitioning their congressman to stop the plant from being built. So the pro-nuke congressman comes to town, bringing along with him an atomic scientist, who shows them all a film about the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. One of those uses involves using radiation to identify the location of brain tumors, and this really gets to Vernon, because his little granddaughter has one and doctors have given her a death sentence. Suddenly, he flip-flops his stance and is all for the nuclear plant being built. This film is very earnest and tries very hard to be fair about this issue, making Vernon and the other townspeople thoughtful and intelligent instead of ignorant knee-jerkers in their opposition to the plant, but its pro-nuke stance is obvious and that in the end makes the resolution overly simplistic. Just because there are some benefits of atomic research does not really resolve the issues the townspeople originally brought up. Perhaps if the film had made it more clear what specifically the proposed plant was supposed to do it would have helped. As it is, it promotes black-and-white thinking about nuclear energyÂÂif it's not 100% evil, if you can find even the tiniest benefit from it, then you must be 100% for it. Sorry, but I think it's a lot more complex than that. And it's disturbing to me to see the town be so easily reassured about atomic energy. The film's very earnestness and intelligence make it a much more subtle and effective piece of propaganda than the campier films on this site, and that makes it more disturbing.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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